“I loved this stunning debut collection of stories. Chen digs deep and uses her experience as a foreign correspondent to portray the voices and lives of people living in modern China. These stories will stay with you long after you’ve finished reading the book. Highly recommended.”
— Cody Morrison, Square Books, Oxford, MS
A Best Book of the Year: Barack Obama · NPR · The Washington Post · The Philadelphia Inquirer · Esquire · Kirkus Reviews · Chicago Public Library · Electric Literature
Malala Yousafzai’s Fearless Book Club Pick for Literati
"Dazzling...Riveting." —New York Times Book Review
“Gripping and illuminating . . . At the heart of Te-Ping Chen’s remarkable debut lies a question all too relevant in 21st Century America: What is freedom?” —Jennifer Egan
“Immensely rewarding, from the first sentence to the last . . . An exceptional collection.” —Charles Yu
A “stirring and brilliant” debut story collection, offering vivid portrayals of the men and women of modern China and its diaspora, “both love letter and sharp social criticism,” from a phenomenal new literary talent bringing great “insight from her years as a reporter with the Wall Street Journal” (Elle).
Gripping and compassionate, Land of Big Numbers traces the journeys of the diverse and legion Chinese people, their history, their government, and how all of that has tumbled—messily, violently, but still beautifully—into the present.
Cutting between clear-eyed realism and tongue-in-cheek magical realism, Chen’s stories coalesce into a portrait of a people striving for openings where mobility is limited. Twins take radically different paths: one becomes a professional gamer, the other a political activist. A woman moves to the city to work at a government call center and is followed by her violent ex-boyfriend. A man is swept into the high-risk, high-reward temptations of China’s volatile stock exchange. And a group of people sit, trapped for no reason, on a subway platform for months, waiting for official permission to leave.
With acute social insight, Te-Ping Chen layers years of experience reporting on the ground in China with incantatory prose in this taut, surprising debut, proving herself both a remarkable cultural critic and an astonishingly accomplished new literary voice.
About the Author
TE-PING CHEN's fiction has been published in, or is forthcoming from, The New Yorker, Granta, Guernica, Tin House, and The Atlantic. A reporter with the Wall Street Journal, she was previously a correspondent for the paper in Beijing and Hong Kong. Prior to joining the Journal in 2012, she spent a year in China as a Fulbright fellow. She lives in Philadelphia.
One of Barack Obama's Summer Reading Picks Named a Most Anticipated Title of 2021 by: Elle,Esquire, O Magazine, Buzzfeed, Newsweek, Refinery29, Lit Hub, The Millions, Bustle, Redbook, The Rumpus, Electric Literature, Write or Die Tribe, Autostraddle, and The Buzz MagazinesNamed a Best Book of February by Washington Post,O Magazine, Harper's Bazaar,Buzzfeed, and The MillionsNamed a Best Book of the Year So Far by Esquire, Fortune, and the BBC A New York Times Book Review Editors' ChoiceAn Indie Next Pick One of Harper's Bazaar's Must-Read Books by Asians and Asian-Americans One of Marie Claire's Best Books by Asian-Americans of 2021 Named a Most Anticipated Title by a Woman of Color for 2021 by R.O. Kwon in Electric LiteratureAn Afar Media Book Club SelectionThe Nervous Breakdown Book Club SelectionA Featured New Release from Lit Hub,The Millions, and Book Riot A Great Story Collection of 2021 by an Asian-American Author from Book Riot A Featured Debut from A Mighty Blaze One of The Nerd Daily's 6 Must-Read Story Collections by POC Authors “Dazzling...Riveting...Chen excels at gritty realism, vividly portraying the widening gap between China’s haves and have-nots...Though the characters never mention the Cultural Revolution, Great Leap Forward or Tiananmen Square massacre by name, the turmoil of the past haunts them as they rush headlong into the future." —New York Times Book Review "[Chen] excels at realism and vivid portrayals of the widening gap between China’s haves and have-nots.” —New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice "A stirring and brilliant collection of stories probing the contradictions and beauties of modern China, Te-Ping Chen's debut is both love letter and sharp social criticism. Through scenes firmly planted in reality as well as tales of the bizarre and magical, Chen reveals portraits lovingly rendered with insight from her years as a reporter with the Wall Street Journal." —Elle "Revelatory...From a ripped-from-the-headlines vignette about a rural farmer trying to build a plane, to a surreal allegory about passengers trapped in a station waiting for a train that never arrives, Chen’s writing gives readers just enough to leave them wanting more. It’s a must-read from an up-and-coming fiction writer." —Fortune "Remarkable...Unfolds across the modern Chinese diaspora, pinballing between acutely observed realism and tragicomic magical realism...Each haunting, exquisitely crafted story poses powerful questions about freedom, disillusion, and cultural thought, firmly establishing Chen as an emerging visionary to watch." —Esquire "Dazzling...Rich and varied...Chen unleashes a powerful and enticing new voice, at times as strange as the dark fairy tale master Carmen Maria Machado, at others as inventive as the absurdist king George Saunders—but always layered with the texture available to a foreign correspondent who has seen it all...Story by story, in China and the U.S., Chen builds a world in which oppression and contentment coexist, not some awful near future but the bizarre here and now...At its most elegant, a Chen story isn’t all an artful reim